My Star Pupil

“Look at the stars tonight,” I said to the kids as we sat around a campfire sipping tea and waiting for our potatoes to bake in the embers. “Aren’t they spectacular.”

They agreed they were, and we got into a chat about stars and I was able to point out everywhere The Southern Cross wasn’t. Suddenly I realised, instead of showing how little I knew about constellations, I had a chance to impart some of the smarts I’ve picked up on Youtube about stuff I do know about.

“The universe is big on recycling. Did you know we’re all made up of stars,” I said in my best wiseman-mystic-mentor voice. “Because,” I went on, “every molecule in our bodies, in everything around  us, was once a part of a star. An actual star. Like our sun. Metals like iron and gold are made in the hearts of stars.”

“Wow,” said Master12.

“Awesome,” said Miss13.

“This counts towards our homeschooling time, right Dad?” asked Miss10.

“No, of course it doesn’t,” I answered her.

“Oh,” said Master12 and Miss13 simultaneously, and turned away from me.

We’ve recently brought in a trade system for homeschooling work. For every hour of homeschooling they do, they can claim one hour of electronics time – be it on an iPad, DS, iPhone or laptop. The advantages have been twofold. One, it sets a limit on how long they can play their devices without us having to snap ‘because I said so’ every couple of hours. And two, they’re waking up in the morning and hitting the books hard even before we’re out of bed.

The downside has been them trying to claim everything from watching us cook to overhearing us discussing work as a learning experience.

“I’ve got some good news and the bad news,” I said to my wife after returning from a chat with Steve, the owner of  Three Waters, the 560 acres property we’re camping on.

“Good,” she said.

“There are no brown snakes or taipans in this area. At all. Don’t give them a second thought.”

Her eyes thinned suspiciously. “Because…?”

“The red belly blacks eat them all,” I said, grinning so as to soften the blow. “He said they aren’t a problem though. Apparently, even if you’re bitten they don’t necessarily inject their venom – they can control that. He’s just recommended if we see one to not touch it.”

At which point Master12, who happened to be with me at the time, told the owner there was no chance of that because Dad would wet his pants and run off screaming.

“Thanks for building me down, bro,” I told him.

“That’s really interesting, Dad,” said Miss10 when she overheard me telling Tracey this. “Of course, I’m not leaving the bus again now until we’re back in Gympie.” I reiterated if would still be safe. Over and over and over, until she either believed me or got sick of me. I didn’t care which. “Fine, but I’m counting this towards my electronics time because I learned something.”

Yeah, no she’s wasn’t.

Just like the cheeky little bugger also wasn’t counting the campfire chat. Ignoring them ignoring me, I went on.

“The whole universe is so old stars have been born and died, exploding and sending all the materials which made them up flying out,” I said, getting animated now with my arms flying about in an exploding star impersonation, “and new stars have then been born from that material. Nothing is new. Every atom has been here since the big bang. Sort of like every bit of water you drink has been around from before humans walked on the Earth. It’s been through millions of animals. Billions. Drunk, pee’d, swum in. Drunk, pee’d again. Over and over.”

Even as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I’d made a mistake.

“Eww,” said Miss7, horrified even more than the whole snake debacle earlier. “We’re drinking pee?!”


“It’s filtered,” I assured her weakly, going on to explain how when evaporation happens it leaves the nasty bits behind and gives us nice clean water when it rains. This idea immediately set Miss10’s mind at ease. Not one bit.

“You are now responsible for me dying of dehydration,” she told me.

Pretty sure, the way things are going, the only thing I won’t be responsible for on this trip is the homeschooling.

We’ve had to make their Kindles exempt from the homeschooling formula, otherwise they were just reading for an hour at night and claiming back electronics time. On the bright side, when they can’t play their other devices the Kindle is suddenly very enticing. Again, for the win.
Here’s something you don’t get everywhere. Parked up behind the Deepwater Inn for a couple of nights, we were surrounded by horses when we woke up on our last morning.

Glen Innes has some amazing borders, making for some fantastic scenery.
What a backdrop.
Play time.
The girls spent an hour gathering autumn leaves to make piles to jump in or bury each other. I saw this and loved the fact they’d made a heart. I said as much to them. “Oh, it is to,” said Miss10. A lovely coincidence then.
So many beautifully old buildings in the New England area.
Checked out Glen Innes’ Standing Stones and immediately put them to good use in half a dozen games of Hide & Seek. We didn’t explain to Master12 fluero shorts might not have been a good wardrobe choice for this game until we’d finished. 
Not everyone at the park was playing.
Or if they were, they weren’t as good at it as I was.
She’s developing the Bruce-face for photos.
“Just pretend I’m not here,” said Tracey as she raced about with her camera. Miss13 immediately turned to her brother, “OMG, did you see what Mum did today!?”

You don’t even have to leave the Glen Innes showgrounds to be awed. Not bad for $20 a night including power.

On our way to Three Waters.
“How about that dust storm?” Tracey said when we arrived. “The whole way out here!” I didn’t notice one at all. Odd.
Our powered camp site for the night.
Steve had explained fossicking is hard work, and Master12 isn’t afraid to pretend he’s working hard.
A lesson in fossicking. Firstly, you dig into the gravel and half fill a bucket. Or at least, you let your little sister do this.
Sorry, little sisters.
Sometimes you need to use the pick to loosen the ground.
Oh, and don’t forget to get excited. There’s sapphires in them thar hills!
There used to be five sapphire mines along the stream on this property. They were actually extracting the corundum, which is used in grinders, sandpaper etc (second hardest rock after diamonds). Finding nice sapphires was actually just a bonus.
Take the bucket to the stream and three quarter top up bucket with water, then make like a washing machine to start rinsing the dirt off all the rocks. Empty dirty water and repeat until you’re down to about half the amount left in your bucket. Apparently my butt crack was making an appearance. Thank you for protecting my dignity, Miss10.
This bit takes a while because you need a bit of grunt to be able to lift the bucket. It’s heavy.
Explain to your children how to sieve the remaining rubble. They’ll love this bit. Basically, the sieve has two pans, one with large grate, one with much smaller. This divides the rocks up nicely so you can look for a nice bit of bling for your mother.
Set them to work. Reminding them, if they dare complain, there’s a perfectly good coal mine down the road I’ll send them down if they don’t crack on with it.

They also offer horse riding here through some awesome Australian bush, although why you wouldn’t spend every spare minute trying to get rich is beyond me.
We got one! See that tiny speck of bluey colour in the middle which is so tiny it nearly went through the sieve? That’s a sapphire. Transparent and, I have to say, satisfyingly beautiful. In fact, I totally get why people spend their holidays doing this now. It’s addictive.
Miss13 was the lucky fossicker whose pan the sapphire appeared in. Chuffed much?
Our band of merry fossickers.
After a hard day in the mines, dinner was snags on the barbie and potatoes cooked in the embers. This is living. Interestingly, I saw a sign on the way in and Three Waters is for sale. If you’re looking for a change of pace, this would be worth a look I reckon.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

this post isn’t sponsored, although Destination NSW organised for us to stay at Three Waters for the night


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